Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rejection -- the Necessary Evil

So you have finished your baby. She’s been edited, beta read, hacked to pieces and re-assembled. You’ve doubted yourself, hated and then loved your characters, and if you’re like me, wondered from what dark, disturbed crevice of your mind they surfaced. Now you’re ready to query!

It always amazed me how writers, myself included, could churn out a 70,000 word masterpiece and then crumble when it came to the 250 word query. The task is so dauntless that I can actually name three people with finished manuscripts sitting in the closet for fear of the dreaded query . . . or the inevitable rejection that even the most polished author must endure. Even I put off querying my own novel Cedar for so long that I actually had time to write a completely different manuscript in the mean time.

I, like most aspiring authors, did my research, read countless blogs about the proper length of a query, the form and the placement of the pitch, how to maintain an active and engaging voice while trying to summarize your entire plot into three action-packed paragraphs. Needless to say, I failed miserably, came away from my research more confused then when I started.

My first attempt was poor to say the least. It got shredded by my friends in AW Query Letter Hell. One of them actually questioned whether my manuscript was even viable – all from my 272 word query alone! I went at it again . . . and again . . . and again . . . until I found my saving grace in a trusted beta reader, one who’d read each revision of Cedar, knew the characters as intimately as me, but wasn’t as attached. She came at if from an objective perspective, and with the same supportive criticism she had attacked my manuscript, she took my query letter from blah to amazing. Hats off to you Julie Duck!

And yes, rejection stings. Just last week I got my signed contract back from my top-pick of agents, was silently celebrating the end of my query days when I opened my email and in pops another rejection . . . from a query I sent over five months ago! I’d like to say I laughed, that I thought “your lose,” but I didn’t. It stung just as bad as the first one. I filed it in my huge query rejection folder, ate an entire sleeve of chocolate chip cookies, and then, after dissecting each of my 15+ rejection letters again I moved on.


  1. Thanks for sharing that Trisha. Each rejection does sting a little but I've come to think of them as a badge of honor. I'm proud to have written something that I had enough confidence in to query - even if I later learned it still wasn't ready!

  2. You're right about how you can read all the blogs and websites, but still write a terrible query. I think it's like any other kind of writing: the more you write and rewrite, the better it will be. Thanks for the reminder!

    I like the idea of getting query help with a trusted beta reader. I may have to do that.

  3. Hey mama!

    Thank you so much for the mention. Cedar flowed like good coffee. It is smooth, it is unique, and it engages the reader. When I look forward to receiving chapters, I know I'm reading a good story. Your new agent is so lucky to have you and Cedar! I look forward to seeing where it goes!

    - Julie (your permanent beta reader)

  4. I made the mistake of reading through all my old query rejections last week. NOT SMART. I should just delete the darn things, but for some reason I feel like I've got to keep them around.

  5. Trisha, what a great post (thanks for voting on my site by the way:-).

    I know so many authors who had tons of rejections and every one of them stung, but they all mattered so little once their ms found the right home, the right agent for them. Querying is terrifying and waiting is even worse - congrats for being past that first hurdle!!!

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Trisha! It seems as though rejection always stings, not matter where you are in the process. But at least we're writing and querying and submitting! Not submitting at all means you always lost; at least by submitting, you have a winning chance!

  7. I'm on edit round 1. Part of me wants it to be over, part of me is glad as hell I don't have to send queries yet :)

    Something I do though, since I'm around so many wonderful publishing agency types on the blogosphere. I write a query every 2 months. And I just let it sit there. The ones I have so far aren't too bad. I think, by taking the pressure off, I've probably written better queries than I would had the MS been finished.

    My biggest problem when it comes to query time might actually be picking which one I want to polish and send to agents.

    -Claire Dawn

  8. Thanks for the post Trisha. I almost feel better. You're right, it's silly that we can write a whole novel and a letter seems impossible. That gives me a lot of perspective.

  9. That happened to me, too! The same week I signed my agent contract, I got two rejections (from MONTHS before). Why did it still sting?? So weird...